Showing posts with label policymakers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label policymakers. Show all posts

Friday, July 6, 2012

Topsy Turvey Taxland

In Topsy Turvy Taxland, the government runs a tax system that encourages bad behaviour and then complains that people and corporations are behaving badly. This is a tax system run by Jabba the Hutt – dysfunctional, dictatorial and counter-productive.

It's a tax system that punishes work, encourages wasteful spending, and is too lazy to bother discouraging bad behaviour like smoking, gambling and polluting.

In contrast, my ideal tax man is Cary Grant – energetic, practical, flexible and intelligent.

Tax reform gives Jabba the Hutt a makeover so he is more like Cary Grant. As you can see from the picture, it's a monumental task that is best achieved in small steps.

Australia's latest tax reform, the Clean Energy Legislation, continues a trend to move taxes away from those that penalise work towards taxes on expenditure. This is Cary Grant's way of encouraging citizens to work hard, save their money and spend wisely.

The previous tax reform in 2000 gave us the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is a value-added tax of 10% on expenditure. In July this year the Clean Energy Legislation includes a tax of $23 tonne on major greenhouse gases. In 2015, this tax will change into a price that is integrated with world carbon markets.

This structural shift away from taxing income towards taxing expenditure is highly praised.

The Economist says,
Other governments would do well to emulate and improve upon Australia’s efforts to shift the tax burden from hard-earned wages and profits to unearned rents and uncompensated harms.
This New York Times article praises British Columbia's carbon tax.
On Sunday, the best climate policy in the world got even better: British Columbia’s carbon tax — a tax on the carbon content of all fossil fuels burned in the province — increased from $25 to $30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, making it more expensive to pollute.
Yoram Bauman and Shi-Ling Hsu

The authors ask, "Why tax good things when you can tax bad things, like emissions?" and they note that this principle is supported by  economists across the political spectrum, from Arthur B. Laffer and N. Gregory Mankiw on the right to Peter Orszag and Joseph E. Stiglitz on the left.

Economic theory suggests that putting a price on pollution reduces emissions more affordably and more effectively than any other measure. It is good policy.

In Topsy Turvey Taxland,Tony Abbott, our Leader of the Opposition, is promising to undo Australia's Clean Energy Legislation and remove the price on greenhouse gases when he gets into power. He'll have to increase income taxes so the government doesn't lose revenue, though of course he's staying mum about that part of his plan.

This will take us back to square one, to Jabba the Hutt as tax man supervising a system that lazes around, doing none of the heavy lifting required to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

Mainstream climate scientists say that global warming is an urgent problem that should be tackled head on with gusto. "With gusto" means that our tax system can't be lazy. It has to pull its weight.

We need Cary Grant on the job, not Jabba the Hutt lazing around.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

After Pearl Harbour

Following my comments yesterday about the disparity between the catastrophic potential of climate change and the mild words and actions even of those who accept the science, I was interested to see David Spratt address the same topic,
After Pearl Harbor, the US government told Detroit to stop manufacturing automobiles for private use, and start building tanks and other war materiel. Automobile production was 162,000 in 1941 and zero in 1942. Tank production was <300 in 1940 and 25,000 by 1942.

When the US does act decisively on climate, the government will tell the private sector to stop burning coal and start getting power from renewables within one year, and they will do it because it feasible. The US can't solve the climate crisis unilaterally, so we will pay for China to go solar in exchange for shutting down its coal mines (the two nations control 40% of the worlds coal reserves), just as we couldn't win the war alone, and paid the Soviet Union to keep the second front open.

Our agenda must aim for that level of action, nothing short of it is sufficient, and the details will not be worked out beforehand. Our present agenda, focused on US domestic emissions and anything-is-better-than-nothing, has more in common with the pre-war policies of isolationism and appeasement.
Hear! Hear!

I read that the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today was 15 million years ago. Global temperatures were 5-10°F higher than they are today, the sea level was about 75-120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.

The geological record suggests that the current acidification is potentially unparalleled in the last 300 million years of Earth history. Researchers say this is worse than during any of four of the major mass extinctions in history.

What is a proportional response to this situation? I don't think more bicycling and worm farms will do the job. As David McKay says,
If everyone does a little, only a little gets done.

Just as the attack on Pearl Harbour brought a massive response, so it is inevitable that climate change will foster an all-out response at some point.

As individuals we can advocate for change and prepare ourselves by making adaptations ahead of the curve. See the Take Action tab above for things you can do.


News of the day on the Transformations menu tab.

8 June 2012. Emirates Airlines' 2012 environmental report shows that in the year to March 31,  the Emirates fleet burned 22.5 percent less fuel (litres/passenger km) than the IATA global average as well as emitting 18 percent less fossil sourced carbon by the same metrics. Most of the advantage is due to having a younger, more fuel-efficient fleet. Source: Climate Spectator.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose! That's the rallying call for the Dillon Panthers.

Last night we watched the much awarded Friday Night Lights on DVD. We're up to Season 3.

Landry dumped his cute little blonde girlfriend to take up with Tyra again. On again, off again, what will happen next?

And Smash got dumped from TMU, just a couple of episodes after all the drama about whether he would get attractive offers and whether he'd make wise choices. On again, off again, where will he end up now?

We don't know, we just follow along from episode to episode. But somebody does know. Somebody has a pretty fair idea about the overall story arc.

The writer, producer and actors have a general idea about the long narrative arc for the series and for its characters. Actor Jon Hamm knows that Mad Men is intended to run for another three seasons and knows how it will end. Of course, he's not saying.

In life, we go along day by day, episode by episode, writing the script as we go along.

Weather happens day by day too, and we get the impression that we can't know what lies ahead, other than assuming more of the same.

But that's not quite true. Climate scientists who study the long term patterns (the larger story arc) have a pretty fair idea of what is coming in the longer term. They can read the signs.

They are saying things like,
Oceans are now 30% more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution. The last time the oceans were as acidic as this was 65 million years ago. The acidity caused mass extinctions at the bottom of the food chain and the dinosaurs died out.  
The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.

Given their insider knowledge, and the future they are staring at, it is little wonder that climate scientists are taking a more active role in communicating the facts to policy makers and the general public.

We need our policy makers to have clear eyes – they need to look unflinchingly at the best scientific evidence. 

They need to have full hearts – passion and commitment.

Then, indeed, we can't lose

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose! Go Panthers!